Game 5 Preview: Oklahoma City Thunder @ San Antonio Spurs

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Spurs face a familiar scenario against the Thunder as both teams head into Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals tied 2-2.

Oklahoma City Thunder @ San Antonio Spurs

AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
May 29, 2014, 8:00 PM Spurs Time
TV: TNT - RADIO: 1200 AM WOAI

It has happened. We are now officially on 2012 Western Conference Finals watch. Ask your significant others to hide all of the sharp objects. If you don't have a significant other, then good luck out there.

Only four teams have come back from an 0-2 deficit in the history of the NBA Conference Finals, and the Spurs are looking to make sure they aren't on the depressing side of history, once again. I'm actually having to stop myself from writing the "Hey, it's okay. This team has been through this before," preview, as if experience in this situation is a virtue. It's not. It's a situation that only happens when something goes horribly awry. And yes, I would consider Russell Westbrook "horribly awry." Every player on the San Antonio roster is fully skilled and equipped enough to send the pendulum swinging back in the other direction, though, but it's going to have to happen tonight and it's going to have to happen in a way that nullifies the momentum built by OKC over the past two games.

Because this situation is so much like what went down two years ago, I thought it would be interesting to look back and compare the two situations. I stumbled upon PtR's game preview of Game 5 of the 2012 Western Conference Finals written by greyberger and found some interesting parallels between then and now. Going back and reading the post, I noticed that while the rosters may have changed a bit, the competitiveness and utter "scratch your head" confusion about what's going on still exists between these two squads.

Here are a few interesting notes and key points for Game 5 of the WCF in 2012 compared with this year's Game 5.

Style of the Spurs compared to rest of teams in the playoffs

The only NBA narrative anyone is talking about goes like this: the Spurs represent teamwork and distributed responsibility in the mold of the 2011 Mavericks, while the Thunder and Heat stand for star power and the older, more established way of interpreting and marketing the NBA.

The 2012 WCF was the Thunder's first real push into the spotlight of the NBA and essentially when they became the league's special pet. This was also the year that LeBron set out to avenge his 2011 Finals loss, which gave the media easy narratives that wrote themselves. That being said, this sentence could have easily been written yesterday and it would still hold up.

This year's Spurs team lead the league in assists, which made for beautiful plays created by a flurry of screens and misdirection. While tactically more difficult than what the Thunder and Heat are able to do, nothing fills a higlight reel more than dunks, followed by dunks, followed by players throwing up the "three hands" after they release a shot from behind the arc, followed by chest bumps and screaming along with their fans, followed by dunks. The Spurs, Thunder, and Heat have not changed over the past couple years, and we are still seeing the media repercussions of that.

Specific players performing under pressure

The Thunder have responded brilliantly to the danger of elimination so far and a lot of worry has been focused on whether players like Danny Green, Tiago Splitter and Bonner can be productive under all this pressure and against an opponent that has been countering the schemes that make them effective.

This was one of the points that I wish the writer and everyone reading back then could look into the future and see what would come of Danny and Tiago as far a performing under pressure. The readers of that preview had yet to witness Green set the record for most threes in an NBA Finals. The 2012 version of Splitter was a clumsy dude who had yet to figure out what do with his size. Both have since been poster boys of PATFO's ability to develop players into solid, dynamic appendages of the Spurs' starting squad.

And in regards to Bonner...Hey! He got signed to Adidas!

A different Ibaka effect

Obviously Ibaka isn't going to drop 26 on us on 11-11 shooting again, but what happened in game four was as much about a Spurs weakness and Ibaka finding his shot as it was fluky playoff randomness. All postseason the Spurs have welcomed big men to shoot the mid-range jumper and Ibaka can punish that with a surprisingly soft shot that has range comparable to Duncan's. In the regular season, Ibaka shot 46% from 16-23 feet, tied for fifth among power forwards on an above-average number of attempts.

We are currently talking about a different aspect of the game that Ibaka brings to the table than we were in 2012. Although he still takes the midrange jumper, it's his ability to send any shot in the paint into the fifth row that the Spurs are having difficulty with. San Antonio's comfort in the paint at home needs to much better than it was in OKC if they want to have a shot at getting a third win.

Game prediction

I have no justifiable idea what's going to happen tonight, but my gut says the Spurs win a close one. All we can do is pay attention to what's happened so far and try and project it forward, and in this crazy series it's hard to reconcile the first two games with the more recent two. If you're throwing out the regular season and earlier rounds there's no prediction to make, just an opportunity to re-state which team you picked to begin with.

It's this prediction that made me run through the whole "time is a flat circle" monologue in my head. This year's series has thrown us some curve balls, but it's not any more predictable than it was before Game 1. Much like 2012, Game 5 has become the start of an entirely new series. Everything that has happened before this moment has been canceled out. Four straight blowouts have lead us right back to where we started, which is the two best teams in the better Western Conference battling it out to exact their revenge on the Miami Heat. Just like greyberger, my gut says the Spurs will win, but to base that on any evidence given in the Western Conference Finals so far would be impossible.

Game 5, Western Conference Finals, 2014 NBA Playoffs
@
Regular Season: 59-23
Playoffs: 9-7

Regular Season: 62-20
Playoffs: 10-6
May 29, 2014
AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
8:00 pm CST
TV: TNT - Radio: 1200 WOAI
Starters
Russell Westbrook PG Tony Parker
Thabo Sefolosha SG Danny Green
Kevin Durant SF Kawhi Leonard
Serge Ibaka PF Tim Duncan
Kendrick Perkins C Tiago Splitter
Advanced Stats
95.4 (9th) Pace 95.0 (10th)
110.5 (6th) ORtg 110.4 (7th)
103.9 (6th) DRtg 102.4 (3rd)

For the Thunder's perspective visit Welcome to Loud City.

Game Prediction: Spurs by 4.

Line in Vegas: Spurs by 4.

As always Tony must dominate Fisher, for real this time, and you can get your San Antonio Spurs tickets from Daniel Farias with Spurs Sports & Entertainment:

Tel: 210-444-5607 | dfarias@attcenter.com

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